Labor Roundup | July 2020

Two Cicero workers died, two fired after complaining of safety at bakery. Two workers at Bimbo Bakeries in suburban Chicago died due to COVID-19 shortly after two others were discharged following public complaints of inadequate safety measures. Gerardo Mello and Dennean Paul were fired in what they see as retaliation for sharing their concerns with the Cicero Independiente newspaper. Paul has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board. Teamsters represent a dozen Bimbo facilities nationwide.

Unionized bus drivers refused to assist police in transporting arrested protesters last month after demonstrations about George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis. Members of the Amalgamated Transit Union and Transport Workers of America in Minneapolis, New York City and Washington, D.C., took the action.

“Our operators won’t be used to drive cops around,” said JP Patafio, vice president of TWU Local 100.

Transit union leaders nationwide are instructing members not to cooperate with police arresting protesters.

Reporters strike over racial inequity. Dozens of Philadelphia Inquirer reporters took part in a “sick-out” last month over the paper’s coverage of race issues. The wildcat strike came less than a day after the Inquirer was forced to publicly apologize for its coverage.

“We’re tired of hasty apologies and silent corrections when someone screws up,” reporters wrote in an open letter to management.

The reporters walked out because they said they strive to see things covered accurately, but see the paper getting it wrong on race.

“We’re tired of being told to show both sides of issues there are no two sides of,” the letter said. “Things need to change.”

Top union leaders are backing efforts to establish vote-by-mail systems. However, President Donald Trump and the GOP-controlled Senate oppose making it easier to vote.

Vote-by-mail will help “front-line workers –– the nurses, those who are driving trucks and in grocery stores and others –– who are working from home and have kids there,” said U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar,

Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party-Minn. “Voters also don’t want to risk health or lives to the virus’ community spread by waiting in long lines.”

The Service Employees and other progressive groups launched a Get Out the Vote drive to register and mobilize three million new voters –– unionists, women and people of color –– for November’s elections. The $30 million campaign is vital, said SEIU Mary Kay Henry, because “we can’t return to normal” after the pandemic ends, instead choosing leaders responsive to people and not to the 1% and the inequality they created “long before” the pandemic hit.

“We rewrite the rules, rebuild the economy based on workers’ power, and reinvest in communities,” she declared.

When working people, people of color, and young people vote, “they consistently vote for more progressive candidates and policies” including climate justice, immigration reform, social, economic and legal justice, and women’s rights, said Color of Change PAC spokesperson Rashad Robinson in a prepared statement.

Organized labor’s leaders on June 3 called for an end to racial injustice in America. The remarks –– days after the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington was damaged in unrest there –– came from labor federation president Richard Trumka, AFSCME president Lee Saunders, Teachers president Randi Weingarten, Electrical Workers president Lonnie Stephenson, Painters president Kenneth Rigmaiden, UNITE HERE president D. Taylor, and Bricklayers Local 8 Southeast president Glenn Kelly.

Black and Hispanic workers face much more economic and health insecurity than white workers despite the popular refrain that “We are all in this together,” according to a recent report from the Economic Policy Institute about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

News briefs courtesy of The Labor Paper

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